In this episode of The Feel Good Effect, we’re talking about a simple mindset shift you can use to prioritize how you feel (over how you look) with Dr. Lindsay Kite.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “it’s more about how it feels than how it looks” and wondered how to really embrace that idea? If so, you’re in luck – this episode is for you. Listen in or keep reading for this interview with Dr. Lindsay Kite!
a simple mindset shift to prioritize how you feel (over how you look) with dr. lindsay kite
How do you really focus on how you feel rather than overly focusing on how you look?
Dr. Lindsay Kite – a researcher of media studies & body image and cofounder of nonprofit Beauty Redefined – is talking about exactly that. Although the research Dr. Kite talks about was conducted with women, these tips are applicable to all of us and all of the people in our lives.
“women are more than just bodies” – Dr. Lindsay Kite
what about your story led you and your sister to write this book?
More Than a Body is the culmination of years of research, effort, and personal transformation. It started when Lindsay and her sister, Lexie, were both in their freshman year of college – taking a media literacy course for journalism students. They found themselves both relating so much to what they were learning. Particularly about how media messages are manipulated and engineered to make us think and see in certain ways about things like race & violence as well as gender & appearance.
They realized how deeply impacted they had been by ideas about what women’s bodies needed to look like and how highly valued women’s bodies are in this culture. Weight-loss and beauty were talked about like the key to every good thing in life – confidence, happiness, desirability, success, you name it. They found this was something they were both very interested in and ended up carrying that passion through master’s degrees, PhDs, an online course, public speaking events across the U.S., and online activism.
When you can see more in yourself and in other people – more than an object, more than an ornament – it really transforms the way you live your life. The book is broken down into bite-sized steps, interwoven with anecdotes and personal narratives. The hope is to cause a paradigm shift for people in how they relate to their own bodies, their health, their confidence, and everything that’s tied up in that.
“when you can see more in yourself and in other people – more than an object, more than an ornament – it really transforms the way you live your life.” – Dr. Lindsay Kite
why is the statement, “women are more than just bodies”, so important?
Women’s relationships with their bodies are shaped by the way we’ve learned to view bodies – in media and the ways our families & cultural references talk about bodies. We grow up in these bodies, yet, the way we feel about them is completely molded by how our mom felt about her body, the way other people talk about our bodies, the bodies we see represented positively in media, and which bodies were joked about. We’ve taken these messages throughout our lives about what bodies are “good bodies” and the importance they carry in our lives and happiness. It shapes us in an invisible way. We aren’t aware of the manipulation that we’ve taken in.
Between their master’s and doctoral degrees, Lindsay and Lexie conducted a study asking women how they felt about their bodies. Overwhelmingly, about 80% of women described feelings about their bodies solely in terms of how they look, demonstrating this tendency for us to live outside of our bodies and look at them as if we are outsiders. It’s called self-objectification.
Self-objectification: the process of monitoring and evaluating your body as if it were an object to be looked at by someone else.
We are driven by fears of how others perceive us and we spend time trying to make our bodies nicer for others to look at. We are disconnected from our own bodies, living inside them, seeing the world through our bodies, yet, prioritizing the way the world perceives our bodies. It has to change, we are more than bodies.
“we aren’t aware of how we’re being manipulated. we aren’t aware of how cohesive, how one-dimensional these images of women’s bodies are that we’ve taken in our whole lives…because it’s everything we’ve ever known” – Dr. Lindsay Kite
reclaiming and redefining positive body image
The way Lindsay and Lexie define positive body image is a shift from the buzzword form it’s taken on elsewhere.
Well-meaning people have been working hard to improve women’s body image, but what’s really happening is they’re trying to convince women that they’re beautiful & that there’s more than one way to look beautiful. On its face, that’s really nice and it is really nice to feel beautiful. But feeling beautiful doesn’t actually solve the problem with negative body image.
Negative body image is a deeply-rooted shame about the body one lives in – not just the body people look at. The way Lindsay and Lexie shift this is by defining positive body image not by thinking you look good, but knowing that your body is good regardless of how it looks. It is a shift back inside your own body, as opposed to being viewed from the outside and prioritizing that perspective.
“we define positive body image not as thinking your body looks good but knowing your body is good (regardless of how it looks)” – Dr. Lindsay Kite
the visual self vs. the whole self
Step one is recognizing when we are self-objectifying.
The way you feel about your body is your body image. Your body isn’t just the way you feel about your looks, your body isn’t just something to be looked at, your body is something to be lived in. Fixing body image problems can’t just stay at the surface level, of trying to make people feel beautiful. It’s fleeting, defined by outside sources, manipulated by others’ perceptions of you, so it’ll shift all day every day outside of your control. What you can be in control of and constantly working toward is how you feel about your body overall. It’s important to realize how this objectifying culture has seeped into how we think about ourselves.
When we find our attention pulled away from what we are doing and toward thinking about how we look, we slip outside of the moment, outside of our own instrumental bodies, and take on an objectified perspective of ourselves. When you recognize that, you can start to see the ways it’s held you back. Some questions for self-reflection include:
How have you been harmed by prioritizing the way others look at you as opposed to how you feel?
How does the objectification of women have implications for your health and happiness?
Imagine the implications for society when girls and women never feel positively about their bodies and are held to a crazy standard. The effect of that can be taking yourself out of the group photo or not wanting to get in the pool on vacation. It can look like quitting sports or stopping exercising. Or preemptively holding themselves back or opting themselves out of activities & positions & spaces because of it.
It’s an opportunity to reflect and reconsider the ways we cope with the self-objectification as we build body image resilience. Instead of just coping and hiding our bodies, Lindsay and Lexie lay out a multitude of ways you can look around the environment that has created these feelings. And how to take back our power to live within our bodies rather than living in fear of how they appear.
“what’s really important is for people to recognize the ways that this objectifying culture has really seeped into how they think about themselves, how they view and treat their own bodies” – Dr. Lindsay Kite
body neutrality over body positivity
Body positivity is a great thing, a step up from a world in which women’s bodies are judged against a narrow set of ideals. Body positivity is the idea that all bodies are beautiful and we should be embracing all shapes and sizes of bodies. A problem with this is that it perpetuates the idea that feeling beautiful is the most important thing. Even if you feel beautiful, you may still be fixated on how you look. Body neutrality addresses that by taking appearance out of the equation and prioritizing how you feel, what you do, and the experience of your body from within.
Body neutrality is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a stopping point. In reality, we live in a culture that values the appearance of women’s bodies so much, that we are all going to be triggered by that in some ways. Lindsay and Lexie take it a step further to talk about body resilience, a well-researched model showing that people start out in a triggering, objectifying world and can take a more active role in responding to these disruptions.
Ask yourself: how would I normally respond to seeing myself in a picture that I absolutely hate? Maybe that looks like going on an extreme diet for as long as you can handle it. For some, it can look like turning to self-harm or substances.
Instead, Lindsay and Lexie recommend looking to ways we can actually improve our lives and the ways we feel about our bodies in proactive, manageable ways in the moment. One example of this is to improve your media literacy and changing the way we interact with our environment and the messages we take in. Putting effort toward viewing and using our bodies as instruments instead of as ornaments, getting that power back in our embodied experience.
“Take inventory of all the different messages that you are actively taking into your life. Whether it’s subconsciously or media that you’re opting into.” – Dr. Lindsay Kite
what are practical things we can do in terms of media consumption: what we’re viewing & how that relates to how we view our bodies?
Take inventory of all the different messages that you are actively taking into your life. Whether it’s subconsciously or media that you’re opting into. Look at the cultural ideas and talk around bodies that surrounds you, outside of screens.
Reflect on this question: What do the bodies that you’re following, that are featured prominently, that are depicted as “positive” look like?
We need to be aware that these really particular, strict ideas of beauty are being normalized and made invisible in our lives. And of how they differ from our real bodies & all the real bodies that exist in the world.
We need to value the differences that actually exist in the world so we don’t inevitably learn to view those differences as defects, flaws, or less than ideal.
We should surround ourselves with a diversity of images and messages about bodies that we can all fit in.
None of us are abnormal. Make sure what you’re seeing reflects the values you have.
The inevitable side effects of being a woman and being in the media are that people will comment on your appearance. This is heightened for women who are talking about body image. People will reject or embrace your ideas depending on how you look. There are two rationales for the rejection on the spectrum of objectification of women, either that ” you are too fat and ugly and you are jealous of beautiful women and that’s the only reason you are on this crusade” or “you are too young and beautiful to have any idea what body shame feels like”.
It doesn’t matter that they are experts in the subject, there are plenty of instances that Lindsay and Lexie’s ideas are dismissed by how they look. Like everyone, they’ll never be able to control how people view them. We can, however, control how much we let that affect our lives. On social media, they are intentional about not leading with the way they look; it’s not about them. Regardless of how you look, you can still importantly build body image resilience.
What’s important is not how you look, it’s how you respond to the pressures and pain that will inevitably result from this culture we live in.
We are all visible and people are going to bring their own judgments to that. It’s important to not hide and pretend that nothing about our appearance matters. People do connect with others visually, and unfortunately, people bring a lot of bias and prejudice to those perceptions, consciously or not. For Lindsay and Lexie, its more about not putting their appearance on the forefront. For those with a platform, it’s important to be aware of when you are leading with yourself versus when you are leading with your appearance.
“we need to value the variety of differences & diversity that actually exists in the world so we don’t inevitably learn to view those differences as defects or flaws, or things that are less than ideal”. – Dr. Lindsay Kite
a small shift around prioritizing how you feel versus how you look
Small shifts in how you live your life based on prioritizing how you feel as opposed to how you look, will make big changes in communities, families, cultures, societies, and nations. It’s a grassroots, tiny shifts effort in how we talk to each other, how we view & value ourselves and how we view & value each other. With these small shifts we can create large cultural shifts in how our world values women.
Lindsay’s top tip: do what you want to do without waiting until you fit the ideal of what you think you should look like in order to do that thing.
Maybe it’s going swimming, joining a workout class that you’ve been wanting to go to, getting family photos taken, anything. Is there something that you want to do that you have mental roadblock around, on wanting to to it once you lose so much weight or stick to a healthy eating program for so long or have the right outfit? Try it anyways. Challenge those restrictions about who is worthy to do certain things. See if you can feel happy, good, and confident in those moments.
what are you most excited about for the book?
Lindsay tried really had to not look at the numbers around the book’s success. What she’s taking more personal satisfaction in are the messages, stories, and remarks from readers who made changes in how they live their life and in how their kids or friends will live their lives. She imagines it spreading through tiny decisions, testimonials, vulnerability where people say they needed the book and share it with others.
She wants people to feel the positive effects that can come from this mental shift of really living your life as more than a body and to share it with someone who might love it too.
what does it really mean to be healthy?
“Being healthy means being able to do what you want to do and feel how you want to feel. There are many limitations on that… but I think “healthy” is something so personal and individual that can hopefully be rewarding as we seek it in ways that are empowering and holistic as opposed to physical appearance-oriented. I have found the greatest satisfaction in my health when I am focused on my body as an instrument – what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, how I’m experiencing the world” – Dr. Lindsay Kite
Dr. Lindsay Kite is identical twin sisters with Dr. Lexie Kite. They both received PhDs from the University of Utah. Their academic research on media studies and body image inspired them to establish the non-profit Beauty Redefined in 2009 (while concluding their co-written master’s thesis and beginning their doctoral research) to help a greater number of females recognize and reject harmful messages about their bodies, worth, and potential, and redefine the meaning and value of beauty in their lives. Since then, Lexie and Lindsay have become leading experts in body image resilience and media literacy—authors of numerous studies and books have cited their original research—and have been featured in a variety of national media outlets. Today, they continue to build on their academic work and the passion it stoked for helping girls and women through Beauty Redefined’s online Body Image Resilience Program and course facilitator training, blogging, social media activism, and regular speaking engagements for thousands of people of all ages in both secular and religious settings, from universities and high schools to church congregations and community organizations.
connect with Dr. Lindsay Kite + Dr. Lexie Kite on Instagram @beauty_redefined
checkout their website at www.morethanabody.org
read their book More Than a Body: Your Body is an Instrument Not An Ornament